What The Word On The Street is Reading

Our programming assistant Cailin just finished reading the graphic novel Essex County by Jeff Lemire, published by Top Shelf Productions. You may remember this book from the 2011 edition of Canada Reads, it was, unfortunately, eliminated early in the debates.

About the Book

Where does a young boy turn when his whole world suddenly disappears? What could change two brothers from an unstoppable team into a pair of bitterly estranged loners? How does the work of one middle-aged nurse reveal the scars of an entire community, and can anything heal the wounds caused by a century of deception?

Set in an imaginary version of Jeff Lemire’s hometown, ESSEX COUNTY is an intimate study of an eccentric farming community, and a tender meditation on family, memory, grief, secrets, and reconciliation. With the lush, expressive inking of a cartoonist at the height of his powers, Lemire draws us in and sets us free.

Q & A with Cailin

1) What drew you to this book?

A friend recommended it to me while we discussed his recent visit to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I mentioned that I hadn’t read many graphic novels, so he sent me home with his signed copy of Essex County.  It’s a pretty big responsibility, borrowing a personalized copy of a book. My fear of losing or somehow ruining his special copy moved Essex County to the top of my to-read pile pretty quickly.

2) Did you enjoy reading it?

I did, it was a fantastic read! I thought it was a beautiful piece of artwork — the linework in it was gorgeous, raw and elegant at the same time — but the book also tells an engrossing story. It’s actually a collection of stories intertwined in fascinating ways. Many of the storylines are about hockey. I can’t claim to be the hugest hockey fan around, but I found myself feeling its importance to the characters, and to the history of Ontario.

I’d say that my favourite part of the graphic novel was the section called “Ghost Stories.”  It shows the relationship between two hockey and farm-loving brothers throughout their entire lives. This story was so simple, yet poignant. It’s been added to my (embarrassingly long) list of “books that have made me cry.”

3) Would you recommend it?

I would highly recommend this novel, especially to anyone who likes hockey. Or human emotions! I think those who don’t enjoy the sport will still enjoy the novel. Those who don’t like human emotions may struggle though.

I’d also say this is a pretty great starting point for readers who aren’t very familiar with graphic novels.


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